This memorial website was created to celebrate the life, love, and legacy of an extraordinary woman. Claudia's life was dedicated to her family, friends, community, and students, and there is no understating the impact she had on countless lives. She was a true ambassador of light, who managed to inspire and challenge in equal measure. Claudia never wavered in her service to God, her passion for education, her boundless love for others, and her optimistic spirit. 

We welcome your words, memories, and stories here, as we all cope with the tragic end to Claudia's beautiful and inspiring life.


Celebration of Life: 

Claudia's memorial service and celebration of life was held on Saturday, February 25, 2017. 

The Salewske and Kendall families wish to convey our heartfelt thanks to all who attended, sent cards and flowers, and attended 'in spirit.' We were overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support, and wish we could have hugged and thanked each and every person there. Thank you, thank you, thank you. 


Memorial Scholarship Fund: 

We are proud to announce that as of February 1, 2017, the Claudia K. Salewske Memorial Fund has been established! Donations will be accepted in any amount through the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. It is our goal to create two memorial scholarships in Claudia's honor, as we know she would love nothing more. Thank you in advance for helping us create Claudia's lasting legacy. 

To make a donation today, follow this secure link:

The Claudia K. Salewske Memorial Fund is a memorial fund of Silicon Valley Community Foundation (SVCF). All donations will be processed via SVCF, a 501 (c)(3), public charity registered in the United States (ID 20-5205488). SVCF will provide a formal acknowledgement letter containing tax-deduction language for your records. Contributions will be tax-deductible to the fullest extent of the law.



Posted by Paul Douglass on January 5, 2021
I have been thinking of Claudia these past few weeks, especially because she was so smart and attuned, and wondering what she would have to say about COVID and our politics. John Pollock wrote a piano concerto in her honor. I wish I could give her that kind of tribute. 
Posted by Michael Moore on December 27, 2020
Your memory is a blessing to our family.  Michael and Connie Moore
Posted by Margaret Reeder on December 25, 2020
Blessing are sent today
The Reeder Family
Posted by Christine Penchuk on October 1, 2020
What a beautiful human being and teacher ~ Claudia is dearly missed and will never be forgotten by those who truly knew her.

Posted by arlene huber on December 26, 2019
I truly miss my pen-pal Claudia and had always enjoyed her letters and updates. God rest your soul dear friend. As always a friend at heart! Arlene Huber
Posted by Shannon Pixley sheppard on August 3, 2019
I just found out about cousin Claudia's tragic passing. I always looked forward to her annual Christmas letter and appreciated the old family photos she thoughtfully sent to me. Sending much love and healing thoughts to Mike, Cassie, and others whose lives she touched.
Posted by Rebeca Armendariz on December 26, 2018
Just thinking about this sweet soul who made going to school so much easier for me
Posted by Phill Laursen on December 26, 2017
Though Claudia is missed, she lives on in her inspiration for me and others. As we re-read her writings, as we dig into historical projects, her example motivates us.
Posted by Carol Hansen on December 25, 2017
Claudia was a wonderful and dear friend. She will be forever missed.
Posted by Barb Dillon on December 25, 2017
Claudia, good memories of knowing you and your mom, dad and brother since 1954 will remain in my heart forever. Our ‘Y’ group, high school and beyond. Your hospitality of my visit with Kris (RIP) to your warm home in Gilroy and your guided tour of the flower fields and gardens. RIP sweet Claudia.❤️❤️
Posted by Elizabeth Elliott on December 25, 2017
You are very much missed, Claudia. I hope you're off on some new adventure.

Posted by Felix Kirchner on October 17, 2017
Claudia it has been very bleesed to have you as my sprit sister you are courages and kind to me and my mom, i can't affortd the love and kindness that you have showned i love you godbless!
Posted by Beth Wyman on October 1, 2017
Happy Birthday, Claudia.
Lots of love,
Beth Wyman
Posted by Phill Laursen on October 1, 2017
Many is the time I have wished I could call or visit Claudia about issues in the history of Gilroy. Her contributions continue to inspire me and others to build a sense of community through sharing our local heritage.
Posted by Linda Pattie on May 17, 2017
I will never forget how kind you were to my mother after she lost my Dad. Thank for your caring and kindness. What a terrible loss. My sympathy to all her loved ones.
Posted by arlene huber on March 3, 2017
Fifty-seven years ago two eighth graders, at opposite sides of the United States brought their fifty cents to class to participate in a program to become a pen pal to someone. My first choice was a California girl. Because of that, a naïve thirteen year- old that I was, everyone in California was a movie star. I found out later of the fallacy but that meant nothing to the new found friend I had established. At our young age, we would write every week through our teen years. We grew together thru dating, careers, marriage, family, retirement and talking of our passion for travel.
Claudia was such a good wholesome individual, one that you wanted to stay friends with forever. Her family was just a gracious and welcomed me to their home when I had just missed Mike and Claudia because of his transfer to Hawaii. I did manage to meet up the next year in Honolulu to experience our friendship and to be rewarded with a trip to the Officer Club on Diamondhead. It was a beautiful meeting. Many years later I was able to spend some time with Claudia in their California home. I was graciously welcomed and Claudia showed me the area of Gilroy. Not to mention her insistence of giving me her apricot jam and many bags of home-grown almonds for my journey.
Claudia, in her wonderful writing skills, sent me the most beautiful letter when I turned 70. I will cherish it and little did I know it was the last physical word I would hear from her. Shocked and sadness are in my heart for my pen pal buddy and I will forever thank the day I brought my fifty cents to school fifty-seven years ago.
Posted by Sandy Windham on March 1, 2017
I only know Claudia through a friend of mine (Arlene Huber) in Florida. I have heard wonderful things always. May you rest in peace Claudia and may God Bless your family always.
Posted by Teri Freedman on February 27, 2017
There's a quotation about students' minds being fires to be kindled rather than buckets to be filled, and that's what I think of when I remember the Gilroy High School English Department in the 80s and 90s. It was a privilege to count Claudia as a colleague and friend throughout those years, and as one of my daughter's most cherished teachers, as well. Claudia often taught freshmen and juniors, while I taught sophomores and seniors, and I enjoyed her insights. After we both left GHS, Claudia for SJSU and me for administration, we'd catch up on former students and our own kids when we encountered each other in the grocery store. Every spring and summer, she grew and shared the most beautiful, fragrant roses. Her memory will be a blessing, and I hope it comforts those whose lives she touched.
Posted by Gary Hoff on February 25, 2017
Claudia and I were colleagues in the English Department at Gilroy High School. Her classroom was conveniently located on the way to the office, and I frequently stopped by to ask about her former students who were in my classes. In our conversations, it was clear that she cared for and respected all of her students. Her observations were insightful and kind. If she ever expressed the slightest criticism, in her tactful manner, it always seemed like a compliment. Everyone in her presence felt above average and distinguished. That’s the way it is with a loving person.  My heartfelt condolences to the family.
Posted by Christine Penchuk on February 22, 2017
Mrs. Salewske was one of my favorite educators -- remembered very well and often -- even 20+ years after graduating from high school. She stood out as a brilliant English teacher that cared deeply for her students' well-being and lifelong success. Her classes -- engaging and challenging -- were taught from the heart. I still vividly remember her expressive, compassionate eyes and her care for every detail.
I will remember Mrs. Salweske as one of my most-loved teachers....a very bright light in this world!!
My prayers and love go out to the Salewske family. May God comfort you and encourage you now and always.
Posted by Becky Goodwin on February 22, 2017
I will always cherish memories of Claudia in my life! She rejoiced with me and Chuck in our beginning romance in 1984 and marriage in 1985, then she rejoiced with us at the births of our kids Holly and Tim. She supported my call to ministry and then kept in touch with me even in my far-flung travels in United Methodist appointments! When Chuck was dying, she visited and then kept in touch with all of us, including his mother, which was a very "Claudia" thoughtful thing to do! She was a bright light of Christ on this earth. Now we are blessed by her heavenly spirit, but we will miss her earthly presence.
Posted by Gretchen & Debra Vandenbe... on February 18, 2017
If you ever wanted to experience a life lived as a Disciple of Jesus, Claudia was an amazing example. Her ability to express unconditional love and caring for others was life giving for everyone who knew her.  The gifts of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control (Galatians 5: 22-23) were so much a part her life well lived. Her light will continue to shine through her family and through the lives of everyone who knew her. Heaven rejoices at her arrival as we grieve her loss. Thank you Claudia for your inspiration; our lives are forever changed.
Posted by B&C Flagg on February 15, 2017
In addition to being a talented and popular teacher, we knew Claudia as a valued friend. She was invariably cheerful and gracious,  sympathetically supportive of us during the challenges of family life. We had several ritual events we enjoyed together, like the annual Gilroy UMC Christmas Bazaar where we met for lunch; potluck dinners with a small group of former GHS teachers and spouses; and a Day-before-Christmas exchange of Bobbie’s homemade candy for Claudia’s superb raspberry jam. We will continue to feel the loss of this special friend very deeply as time passes. “May light perpetual shine upon her.”
Posted by Sue Ball on February 5, 2017
Claudia and I met in the late seventies while attending night classes at Gavilan College. We connected right away. She was a perceptive and conscientious student. And I always respected her intelligence. (she often agreed with me) We were enrolled in a music history class; and along the road from Palestrina to Louis Armstrong we encountered the typical challenges that life brings. We solved problems like what to do with our husbands, kids, hairdressers, and the government. Claudia was so hot under the collar because, although she and Mike had occupied their newly built house for a few years, Santa Clara County had yet to send a property tax bill. She would call them only to be told that they had not assessed the property yet. “When they do” she said, “it will be enormous!” Yes, very infrequently Claudia could lose her composure!

Claudia was a tireless worker. She had fruit and vegetables growing all over her yard. I remember helping her to pick her strawberries. I sat on the ground and complained; she picked the strawberries. She and Mike had a small apricot orchard which consumed most of their time during the summers. The kids were just munchkins then. Mine were ten years older than hers and in school full time. So when we visited, it was usually at her home. She had really piled her plate full. Cleaning, cooking, child rearing, farming, school work, and writing, not to mention church activities.

Claudia was the very best of people. Believe me, if you needed help of any kind, she was there for you. She took care of lots of people. She would provide food, transportation, a shoulder to cry on, all with a smile and maybe a giggle. She was kind, loving, and sensitive to your feelings. She took on these responsibilities without seeking kudos for herself. She was always very discreet (no Facebook for her! ).

Claudia was highly organized. I’m sure she planned her days to the minute. When she was hired by Gilroy School District to write a book for the third graders about local history, she took it on with discipline and determination. She was a bit of a perfectionist, you know; and wanted this project to be as perfect as possible. This was the beginning of her later publication, “Pieces of the Past”.

Both of us went to work outside the house in the early eighties. We only saw each other occasionally until recently. Within the last few years (maybe five) we found ourselves part of the F.R.F.G membership. So we’ve been able to reestablish our friendship.

Her tragic death shocked and saddened me in terms that I am unable to express. I will miss her.
Posted by Roohi Vora on January 23, 2017
Claudia was my dear colleague at SJSU several years ago. I attended her lovely retirement party, and then we lost touch. It was by chance that we met again at a WST reading at SJSU in November 2016, and I was so happy and excited to see her. I spend that whole weekend chatting with her during break time (we were seated next to each other during the exam reading) and catching up on news. I always admired Claudia's work ethic and her enthusiasm. She had taught Children's Literature for many years before she retired, and I was going to teach it a second time in Spring 2017. When I mentioned this to her, she was excited for me and said she would be happy to help me in any way she could. True to her word, Claudia sent me some materials with a beautifully hand written letter with a promise to meet again. She invited me for lunch with some other colleagues in January. I am glad that I had a chance to write an e-mail of thanks to her in December because I left for a vacation soon after school ended. It was with shock that I read the e-mail of her tragic death while in Phuket, and I cried at the thought of never seeing her again. In my sadness I remembered her sweet letter, and that is my treasured possession of her memory now that she is not with us. I will remember Claudia, not only as a friend and colleague, but also as a classy lady who was graceful and kind and a very loving person. May her soul rest in peace. Amen.
Posted by Nicki Anagnoston on January 19, 2017
I was lucky enough to have worked with Claudia early in my teaching career where she quickly became a valued mentor, admired colleague and friend. She was uniquely personable, helpful and supportive of new teachers at Gilroy High School, taking the time to lend her expertise at any time. Claudia was a true educator whose special quality was a genuine enjoyment and commitment to working with kids in the context of learning. When thinking of Claudia, I think of kindness and caring. She was a true angel on Earth and will be forever loved.
Posted by Connie Algeo on January 11, 2017
So very sad for all those that loved Claudia. Left way too soon!
Posted by Tami Espinosa on January 5, 2017
Cassie was my first friend in Kindergarten, so naturally I fell in love with her whole family early on. Claudia coached me and Cassie in our first grade talent show performance. She helped me write my first "book" in the second grade, she taught me how to make homemade ice cream at her house, she made up cool word games (I had no idea how educational they were) for us when Cassie had birthday parties. She was incredibly creative and kind. She wrote us our own history book when we were in 3rd grade! When we were in high school she hosted a large group of us at her home before Christmas Ball, cooking, waiting on us, and making us feel fancy and special - white linens, chicken cordon bleu, and all. The Salewske's gave our friends a huge "going away" party before college and had us over every Christmas/New Years break throughout. She sent me letters in college and stayed connected through my mom, Cassie, or the occasional run in when I was in town. I will always remember how she made me feel at home every time I saw her. Her compassion and talent lives on in her daughter, who I am blessed to call a life long friend. My prayers go out to all that knew her, but especially to the Salewske family.
Posted by susan freiberg on January 3, 2017
I also taught with Claudia at GHS and I was fortunate enough to have her wonderful daughter, Cassie, as my student. Claudia's expertise and passion for writing helped our school create writing across the curriculum for all departments, which had a lasting impact on our graduates. Condolences to the family.
Posted by Fortune Gonzales on January 3, 2017
As an educator today, I was touched by many intelligent, thought provoking and motivating teachers of the past. Mrs. Claudia Salewske was one of those special Gilroy High School educators that influenced my life and my career. 

Throughout life we are often influenced by one or two people that inspire our careers. In some cases, those inspiring people have such a tremendous amount of charisma and charm to their style that we become followers and lifelong fans.  Since the early 90’s, I have been a follower albeit a minion of Claudia Salewske. As a student, I was inspired by her passion for education. I too, found this passion for educating and pursued a career in education. Some 25 years later, I instruct students on the same Gilroy High campus that Claudia inspired me on with the same enthusiasm for education she had. 

For her efforts in preserving the history of Gilroy, I thank her. To this day, I use the book she wrote, Image of America: Gilroy, to instruct my US History students, when we learn about our local history. As a lifelong Gilroyan, I feel very privileged to have known such a talented academic. Knowing that Mrs. Salewske contributed to the preservation of our city through her art makes us all invaluable. She will be missed but her contributions will always be preserved.  

I will remain appreciative of the guidance provided to me and my peers at Gilroy High School in the 1990’s. I will also continue to remember her contributions each year, when we read from the pages of her book and learn more about who we all are.
Posted by Elizabeth Elliott on January 1, 2017

Our world's been stripped and ripped
   and torn
We have now lost your pith and form

We shake, we ache, we sink,
   we cry
The truth of true we can't deny

But other facts bring hope
   and cheer
The best is that you once were here

And while you were,
  you gave so much
The world is better for your touch

The spark you brought
   the stir you made
The gleam of you will never fade

You tickled the pen
   you brushed the mind
And never left a page unsigned

The shadows darkened,
   but have not won
They need and must give way to sun

We say goodbye
   as you depart, but
You stay a beat in every heart.
Posted by Dom Galu on December 31, 2016
I had the good fortune of knowing and working with Claudia at Rucker school as a parent and later as she taught in Gilroy. What a warm and caring and creative person who always shared such a positive perspective. She truly made a difference in the lives of so many students.
Posted by Michael Moore on December 31, 2016
Connie and I send our love to Mike and Cassie and have the family in our prayers. We are grateful for having had Claudia in our life. She left the world a better place.
Posted by Janie Gillespie on December 31, 2016
We are so incredibly sad for the Salewske family ... we cannot begin to know your pain but are praying for God's peace and comfort to you all. It was such a pleasure to be able to work with Claudia at Gilroy High School. She made colleagues and students alike just happy to be around her as she treated all like they were the most important person in the room. Two of our daughters had the previledge of having Mrs Salewske as their English teacher and absolutely loved her. She will be missed but has left her mark on so many hearts. Our heartfelt condolences.
Posted by Arlene Okerlund on December 31, 2016
At San José State University, Claudia was one of the best teachers in the English Department. She believed that Teacher Education candidates should be the best students in the English major because they educated future generations. She set high standards and worked tirelessly to help students achieve them. Claudia was one of the kindest and most caring people I have ever known, a colleague respected and loved by all. She was a role model who is sorely missed.
Posted by Patrick Flanagan on December 31, 2016
Please accept our heartfelt condolences----our thoughts and prayers are with you.
Posted by Susan Matts on December 31, 2016
Claudia was genuinely interested in everyone she met. She was a good listener and a wonderful correspondent across the miles. She put us to shame memorising family relationships and significant events and she took every opportunity to maintain contact with her relatives here in the UK. She was held in such high regard and with such affection because of who she was. She leaves a hole in so many lives but she will not be forgotten as so many people are richer for having known her. Love Sue & Charles and family.
Posted by Lindy Wisotsky on December 30, 2016
I always will remember Claudia with a sweet smile and sparkly eyes. She and Linda Kennedy had a baby shower for my son Zev at her house.
Prayers to your family and may you hold dear memories close to your heart...
Posted by Scott Kjellesvig on December 30, 2016
My father Brian Kjellesvig taught with Mrs Salewske for years at GHS. He adored her and was a great friend and colleague. I had her for English my sophomore year and she was the sweetest teacher I have ever had. I ran into her a couple months back at Nob Hill. I went up to her and chatted not knowing if she'd remember me. She was so warm and caring and was interested in what I was doing. So genuine. Gilroy lost a great member of its community. RIP Mrs Salewske and say hello to my dad in heaven for me.
Posted by Ian Clarke on December 30, 2016
Claudia was such a lovely full of life, caring and interested in her family roots here in England. She was always enquiring about what her relatives were up to across the pond and took every opportunity to visit us in the UK. Claudia and Mike made us so welcome when we stayed with them....Claudia was a great hostess...nothing was too much trouble...driving us around to show us many places of interest. Our thoughts are with you Mike and Cassie as you come to terms with your terrible loss. Valerie, Ian and our family.
Posted by Katherine Tsujimoto on December 29, 2016
Claudia left footprints every where she passed. And boy did she fig a trench up those stairs to the museum! She was truely a light and an honest soul. It was a joy to know her. I will miss her smile, her quiet strong presence.I had the honor Of working with her a bit
as she started her journey on school history curriculum for the museum, and then her book on Gilroy, as I was working at the museum at the time We kept her space open at the research table. We just dusted around her as she was a regular fixture. Lol! I appreciate her love of history and her honest search for the true facts. She will be missed, and my heart loosens for loss of her here on earth. But the angels sing.
Posted by Michelle Hager Hernandez on December 29, 2016
Claudia was my teacher in both high school and college; she was also my mentor and friend. We kept in touch through the years, and I spoke to her just last week while I was wrapping Christmas presents. We were planning a lunch date so she could visit our new house. Claudia encouraged me to get my degrees in English, and she inspired me to become an English teacher myself. She always, without exception, believed in me. She was a beautiful person, and I will miss her terribly. All of us in the Hager family send our prayers and deepest condolences.
Posted by Esther Mantelli on December 29, 2016
Mike, Cassie-

My heart goes out to you! I first met Claudia at Gilroy High School. My older brothers, the Contreras boys; had her for English and she was their teacher. She was my CSF adviser and we all volunteered at the armory feeding the homeless and the Garlic Festival selling programs. She was filled with compassion and dedication to her students and her community. She was a mentor and helped me edit my college essays and assisted me with college paperwork. We kept in touch through the years and her and Mike became part of our family. Joining us at birthday parties, weddings and baby showers. She also encouraged me to write a children's book and provided feedback on my stories. She was eager to help and lend a hand. She even took my mother to Watsonville to her class and taught her stretching exercises to aid with my mothers back pain. My family prays for your family and forever remember her dedication and special notes that she often sent my family. Heaven has gained a special angel.
Ramiro, Aurelia Contreras along with Contreras siblings
Posted by Sonia Gariaeff on December 29, 2016
I am thankful to have known Claudia from GHS. Although she was not my teacher, she always had a friendly greeting and warm smile. She was a kind person, and an intelligent person. I was in classes with Cassie since 7th grade, and Matt was in the same class as my sister. One thing I always liked about Claudia is that she was so friendly and spoke to me with so much respect, even though I was going through a rebellious stage and dressed funny. Her spirit will inspire me to continue with educating and spreading light to those around me. She was a wonderful teacher, mother and member of the community. May her family be surrounded with light, love and peace at this time.
Posted by Katie Kellett on December 29, 2016
We were honored to work with Claudia to preserve Gilroy's history, and we are deeply saddened by this news. We send our heartfelt condolences to her family, friends, and colleagues.
-The Staff of Arcadia Publishing, Mt. Pleasant, SC
Posted by Wendy Goris on December 29, 2016
Claudia was my youth group leader. She helped me get through some very difficult times after my mom died. She taught me how to cook so my dad and I would not have to have fast food every night. That motherly relationship turned into a true friendship and I truly miss her. Mike and Cassie if there is anything I can do for you, plasee let me know. You are in my prayers and I am thinking about you.
Posted by Anna Shortt Thomas on December 29, 2016
Although I only worked with Claudia briefly 20 years ago at Gilroy High School, she had a meaningful and lasting impact on who I've become as an English teacher. She set a very high bar for professionalism, both with her students and her colleagues, and has inspired me all these years to commit to a path of growth, rigor, and compassion. I am thankful beyond words that I knew her and had the good fortune of being influenced by her at such a tender stage in my personal and professional development.
Posted by JoAnne Estupinan on December 29, 2016
My heart goes out to all who loved Claudia.
Posted by Joyce Pagan on December 29, 2016
I have such wonderful memories of Claudia, especially during our years at Rucker's Home and School Club. Claudia always had a gentle smile, which began with her very expressive eyes. Her intelligent, perceptive contributions to our meetings were always just what was needed to clarify a point of discussion. It was during this time, also, that she wrote Pieces of the Past, a history of Gilroy which we used later, as third grade teachers, as a resource while teaching the history of Gilroy. Claudia was a lovely person and she will be missed by so many. Rest in peace, dear Claudia.
Posted by Carol Hansen on December 29, 2016
For the past several years my day would often begin with a walk with Claudia--a wonderful way to start the day. She was such a beautiful, caring person, always ready with a helpful word or deed. She was a dear neighbor and friend. Her Christmas note that she brought over last week was addressed to "Friends, Family, and neighbors who are like family". Indeed we feel as though we have lost one of the family. Ron and I will miss her so much and our love flows out to Mike and Cassie. If there is anything we can do to help, please tell us what we can do.
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Recent Tributes
Posted by Paul Douglass on January 5, 2021
I have been thinking of Claudia these past few weeks, especially because she was so smart and attuned, and wondering what she would have to say about COVID and our politics. John Pollock wrote a piano concerto in her honor. I wish I could give her that kind of tribute. 
Posted by Michael Moore on December 27, 2020
Your memory is a blessing to our family.  Michael and Connie Moore
Posted by Margaret Reeder on December 25, 2020
Blessing are sent today
The Reeder Family
Recent stories

Claudia’s Courage

Shared by Becky Goodwin on October 1, 2018

I always looked forward to birthday cards from Claudia! As I look at the cards from years gone by, I see that she always wrote a lovely message inside that was relevant and personal to me. Wow! 

Claudia visited Chuck in his last days. It takes courage to visit a dying friend, but Claudia had that kind of courage, and the word “courage” comes from the French “cour” which is the strength of the heart full of love.

That was Claudia: courage!

I can only hope I can also manifest this kind of courage for people in my life.

Love, Becky

Shared by Mike Underwood on February 19, 2017

Precious memories of one of Claudia and Mike's visits to England. Mike and his family will be in our thoughts on Saturday when Gilroy will remember and honour our dear cousin Claudia.